Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ho Chi Mihn (Saigon) - Rome

September 2, 2014 I spent the last week in Ho Chi Mihn City (Saigon) in Vietnam. I was preaching a retreat on community life within our fraternity. There are 21 students there, and they have just moved into their new house of studies. The head of the mission, fr. Luke, did an incredible job on the construction. The please is really beautiful, and it cost very little compared to construction costs elsewhere. Fr. Joseph T, an Australian friar born in Vietnam, arrived in these days to become the new director of formation at this house. I know him from when he was the custos of Australia. He is a really fine man. Fr. TammyLee also arrived for a visit. He is an American born in Vietnam and he will be joining the team there. There seems to be a great future there. These first ten years of the mission had a number of serious challenges, but it seems as if we are not entering a new stage in their development. The friars showed great hospitality. The food was great. It reminds me of Italian food: simple ingredients prepared simply. I ate a number of things for the first time: Chinese eggplant, Chinese apples, Dragon Fruit, loquat, guava, and hairy fruit. They were all tasty, some more than others. I have had enough rice, though, for quite some time. Between the Philippines and Vietnam, I ate rice at least twice a day, sometimes three times a day. I will be going back to Saigon in October for the official blessing of the house of studies. I flew back to Rome on Saturday, arriving early Sunday morning. As always, the first couple of days are spent getting over the jet lag. I will be here until Sunday and then I have a week’s trip to Honduras. This one came up a bit unexpected. I finished some reading: Easter Island by Charles River Editions There is an island in the South Pacific which became famous for the stone heads that dot the island (probably as either objects dedicated to worship or to commemorate burial sites of important officials. There are only a couple of thousand people on the island (which is now part of Chile). They are Polynesian in origin, and are located in the middle of the ocean, far from other population centers. Its own name is Rapa Nui, and it was portrayed in a film a number of years ago loosely based upon its history and culture. The book, like all of those by Charles River Editors, is very informative. El Greco: 100 Masterpieces by Maria Tsaneva El Greco has always been one of my favorite artists. Born in Crete, he did his best artwork in Spain. His elongated figures seem almost surrealistic, although that art form was not in vogue for centuries. The book gives a good introduction to his life and his work. “B” is for Burglar by Sue Grafton This is the second in the series of Kinsey Millhone detective novels by Sue Grafton that I have read. She is really quite a likeable character. She is a private detective who lives in California. In this volume she is looking for a missing person. Along the way, she runs into a slew of eccentric characters (but believable). The book never lags, and was quite an enjoyable read. Fire in the City: Savonarola and the Sturggle for the Soul of Renaissance Florence by Lauro Martines This book is the story of a Dominican friar who played a controversial role in the history of the city state of Florence during the 1490’s. He preached a return to Christian simplicity in a city caught up in the Renaissance. His followers called upon people to burn up anything which led to dissipation, hence the famous expression, the bonfire of the vanities. He fought for democracy in a city that had been ruled by the Medici family for a long time, and when Italy was being invaded by France. He loudly (and justly) criticized the decadence of the pope, Alexander, the Borgia Pope who was infamous for his scandalous conduct in an age of scandalous conduct. He ended up being arrested and tried for heresy and hung. His trials speak of him admitting that much of what he did was for fame, but one has to wonder about confessions wrought out of someone through the use of torture. He does seem to have been right in what he said, but arrogant in the way he said it. The book gives a good portrayal of the man and his conduct without being overly sympathetic or overly critical. Do Unto Others by J.F. Gonzalez This is a truly odd but interesting story. A couple that is facing bankruptcy, with a child ill with cancer, receive an offer for three million dollars if they deliver up one person to a group of Satanists for a human sacrifice. The Satanists are incredibly rich and powerful. The plot is well written, and doesn’t give more away than is necessary. One is left wondering in this story, which means that the author did a good job. Have a good week. Shalom Fr. Jude


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